Remote with MTV: 'Listen to all that nudity!' On The Scene


By the time we got to Woodstock

We were half a grand in the hole,

And everywhere was a rule and a regulation.

And I dreamed I saw giant Pepsi logos

Climbing halfway to the sky.

Turning into dollar signs

Above our nation.

I didn't get myself back to the garden for a number of reasons, which mainly have to do with the $135 ticket price as well as an inability to stay up much past 11 unless someone keeps slapping me hard across the face.

But what I did do yesterday is grab the remote with my fat, Cheetos-stained fingers and click on MTV. There was Woodstock '94, live from Saugerties, N.Y., with perky Tabitha Soren acting as our host, and field reporters Alison Stewart, Bill Bellamy and Riki Rachtman so wired they seemed hooked to an IV drip of Folgers.

Trying to follow Woodstock on MTV, with all the abrupt cutaways videos, promos and commercials, is sort of like trying to read a book with someone reaching over your shoulder every few minutes and tearing away the next page.

Nevertheless, Ms. Soren and her bubbly buddies managed to give us much of the flavor of the new Woodstock, which, as near as I could figure, could be summed up in one word: nudity.

Yes, nudity. Never mind that we didn't actually see any real nudity. According to Mr. Rachtman, perched on a platform 16 feet above the huge crowd, the better to show off his nose ring and impressively tattooed arms, there were people taking off their clothes all over the place.

Mr. Rachtman mentioned nudity at least a half-dozen times in the first three hours of the broadcast, and at one point actually urged MTV viewers to take off their clothes.

I didn't. It would have scared the kids. Besides, they were frightened enough by the ever-widening swath of orange Cheetos stains forming around my mouth.

Of course, poking fun at MTV is easy. In fact, it's sort of like hunting cows -- there's no sport in it, really.

Yet the fact is, the network put together some interesting reports that showed how dramatically different this Woodstock is from its famous predecessor.

Bill Bellamy -- despite an interviewing technique grounded in the probing question: "Yo! What's your name?" -- walked us around the Mist Tent, a canopied area with a series of pipes that spray a fine mist to keep concert-goers cool.

Alison Stewart, while declining to reveal what happened to the other "l" in her first name, provided a report on how the large crowd entered Winston Farm, first being herded into a "corral" area and then filing single-file through metal detectors.

(Boy, how times have changed. In '69, they were knocking back pills like they were cocktail peanuts. At Woodstock '94, one young woman was seen on-camera lamenting the fact that security guards had confiscated her two bottles of vodka and her beer. No word on whether they took her Marlboros, too.)

Harder to take were Ms. Stewart's loopy, Wayne's World-like backstage interviews, particularly one with the band Kings X:

Stewart: "This is so cool!"

Band: "Yeah."

Stewart: "Do you guys do a cover of Jimi Hendrix?"

Band: "Yes, we do."

Stewart: "Gonna do it tonight?"

Band: "Yes, we are."

Stewart: "Excellent!"

Ohhh-kay. Of course, that was half the problem with MTV's early coverage of Woodstock '94: everyone was talking about the music instead of actually playing it.

Sure, there were bands performing on the main stage. But MTV stayed with its videos (perhaps for contractual reasons), so we were treated to endless shots of Ms. Soren swiveling her head toward the stage and chirping: "The crowd is really getting into the music now!"

Well, if you say so. Look, if someone like, oh, Crosby, Stills and Nash climbs on stage, think we could get a peek?

In the meantime, viewers were kept sedated with such fare as the bizarre interview with a half-dozen folks from Saugerties, who said how much they enjoyed having 200,000 young people with shaved heads, Cat-in-the-Hat headgear and nipple rings tramping through town.

We also learned there are 2,800 Porta-Potties at this Woodstock; at the original Woodstock there were fewer than 100. There are 110 pay phones here. There are 24-hour Alcoholic Anonymous meetings.

It cost $3 million to stage the first Woodstock; more than $30 million to stage this one. Yes. I learned this all from my MTV, God help me.

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